County puts the focus on its market towns
MARKET towns such as Morpeth will be the main focus of county council changes to its estates and buildings management.
But despite delays in the process, the authority will not rush into making decisions about the future of its assets.
The vision for its estate transformation programme is that buildings should serve people rather than the other way round and it is working towards having single integrated front office locations in each large settlement with linkages to partner organisations. The council is also looking to sell and transfer some of its buildings to bring in much-needed income and reduce running costs.
In a report to the Economic Prosperity and Strategic Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Deputy Chief Executive Kate Roe said the authority’s property rationalisation plans will concentrate on Morpeth, Alnwick and Hexham in the coming months.
“I can understand people saying this process is taking a long time, but a robust business case is required before we can proceed,” she said.
“For example, we don’t want to sell off buildings for a low price and regret the decision a year later.”
However, she added that the criteria used to assess business cases will take into account how the plans fit with the council’s strategic objectives as well as the financial aspects and progress can still be made on some sections of the programme.
The responsibility for estate transformation was passed onto Ms Roe a few months ago and Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said the lead officer for this area had changed a couple of times over the last few years and as a result there has been a lack of clarity on how best to proceed.
He added: “Until some of these buildings are sold off, the council should rent them out or allow them to be used by start-up businesses.”
Coun Maureen Brown, who represents Cramlington West, said it was important to get the best price for its assets so sometimes it will be appropriate to wait until market conditions have improved.
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Weather for Morpeth
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North west